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Harmer receives prestigious international research award

Martin Harmer, director of the Center for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology (CAMN) at Lehigh University, has been awarded a Humboldt Research Award for senior scientists by Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Martin Harmer, director, CAMN. Click on the photo to check out the CAMN Web site.

The international honor, one of the most prestigious given by Germany, recognizes Harmer’s lifetime research achievements in materials science and engineering.

Harmer, a professor of materials science and engineering at Lehigh, is world-renowned for his studies of the properties of structural and electronic ceramic materials and their control at the micro- and nanoscale. He is particularly interested in developing novel transparent materials and nanomaterials with multi-functional properties. Currently, he is studying the sintering behavior of nanoparticles of gold and iron oxide, and the mechanism of the conversion of polycrystalline alumina into single crystal sapphire for lighting applications.

As director of Lehigh’s CAMN, Harmer leads a variety of projects. In one, a multi-disciplinary team of Lehigh researchers is working with peers from Harvard, Rice, Georgia Tech, UCLA and the Illinois Institute of Technology to study the economic and environmental impact of nanotechnology. The project is supported by a five-year, $1.7- million grant from the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center of the National Science Foundation.

“The real power of nano is evident when it supports discovery and innovation in other areas – areas such as medicine, computing, materials, and environmental engineering,” says Harmer.

Harmer notes that Lehigh has one of the top electron microscopy centers in the U.S. and has for more than 30 years hosted the world’s foremost annual microscopy short courses.

“Our facilities provide us with unmatched capability in nanocharacterization, ” he says. “But it is when these facilities support adjacent research interests – the search for more effective methods to target drugs directly at tumors, the efforts to remove harmful pollutants from ground water – that the possibilities and significance of nanoscale engineering really take shape.”

The Humboldt Award, which is worth about $60,000, will fund Harmer’s research into the basic science of novel heat treatment (sintering) processes for growing new types of single crystal and multilayer ceramic materials with enhanced performance characteristics for applications such as laser lighting, medical ultrasound imaging and more efficient diesel engines.

The Humboldt Research Award for senior scientists is presented each year to a maximum of 100 top international researchers in engineering, humanities and the natural and physical sciences. It enables foreign academics to conduct research at German research institutions with researchers from Germany and from the rest of the world. Recipients are nominated by leading German scholars and have five years to use the award.

There are currently five Humboldt senior scientist research award winners from the field of materials science visiting Germany, including Prof. Anthony Evans from the University of California at Santa Barbara and Prof. Hamish Fraser from Ohio State University. Harmer will interact with Prof. Jurgen Roedel at the University of Darmstadt, with Prof. Michael Hoffman at the University of Karlsruhe and Prof. Manfred Ruhle at the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart.

Harmer, a fellow of the American Ceramic Society and a member of the European Academy of Sciences, was awarded the Sc.D. from Leeds University (England) in recognition of lifetime contributions to science. He has published more than 200 articles and has been cited more than 2,000 times in articles by other researchers. In 2002, he was named a “Highly Cited Researcher” by the Institute for Scientific Information.

Harmer’s other awards include the Ross Coffin Purdy Best Paper Award from the American Ceramic Society, ACS’s Richard M. Fulrath Award for bridging knowledge between the Japanese and American cultures, the Creativity Award from the National Science Foundation, and the Presidential Young Investigator Award from the White House Office of Science and Technology.

Harmer joined Lehigh’s faculty in 1980. He also holds a B.S. and Ph.D. from Leeds.

Several other Lehigh professors have received awards from the Humboldt Foundation. Most recently, Michael Stavola, professor and chair of physics, received the Senior Scientist Award to study at the Technical University of Dresden.

Fazil Erdogan, the G. Whitney Snyder Professor Emeritus of mechanical engineering and mechanics, has received the Senior Scientist Award twice. John Chen, the Carl R. Anderson Professor Emeritus of chemical engineering, has also received the Senior Scientist Award.

Two other professors – Donald Rockwell, the Paul B. Reinhold Professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics, and Himanshu Jain, Diamond Chair and Professor of materials science and engineering – received the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, which is given to researchers earlier in their careers.

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Tuesday, May 02, 2006

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